Joliet council openly debates future of city manager job

A few City Council members on Tuesday said they were ready to give interim City Manager Martin Shanahan the job without opening it up for candidates.

But others held out without the full council giving a clear indication whether they will seek candidate for the top administrative job at city hall or give the job to Shanahan.

The rare open debate over a personnel matter brought to the surface a split on the council said to be simmering for some time.

The comments at the Tuesday council meeting marked two days in a row in which Shanahan received public support for the job.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk at a Monday swearing-in ceremony lauded Shanahan and said his “contribution to the city of Joliet the last two years cannot be overstated.”

Shanahan, normally the city attorney, has filled in twice as city manager.

He did the job for six months after former City Manager Jim Hock retired in May 2017 and has been doing it again for the last seven months after former City Manager David Hales departed.

The council pushed back a decision on what to do about the city manager job after Hales left, saying they would wait until after the April elections.

Council member Jan Quillman kicked off the debate on Tuesday, the first meeting after the new council was installed, saying Shanahan “has become the face of Joliet” and should get the position.

“He’s done the job,” Quillman said. “People like him. I’ve heard nothing but good things.”

Other council members, however, said the city should at least post the position.

“I think we need to open up the job,” Council member Pat Mudron said. “If Marty’s the best candidate, as you think, then he would have the job.”

Council member Bettye Gavin said she would “like an open process and give other people an opportunity to apply. ... I’m not saying not to get Marty. I’m just saying open up the process.”

Council member Larry Hug, who, like the mayor, paid a tribute to Shanahan at the swearing-in ceremony on Monday, said the city would not find a better candidate for city manager.

Noting that the city received more than 80 résumés before hiring Hales, Hug said, “There is not one person on the list that I would pick over Marty.”

Council member Terry Morris said, “Marty to me has shown to me that he can do the job,” and asked why the city needed to post the job.

Senior Council member Michael Turk called the public debate on Shanahan’s future “an odd conversation. In all my years on the council, we have never discussed personnel on this dais.”